Friday, June 27

Faking The Work: Epoch Films And Friends


If you ever wondered what advertising would look like without client approvals, look no further than the J.C. Penney’s advertisement that had the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival roaring.

The ad features two teens that practice how long it takes to get dressed and undressed before “going down to the basement to watch TV.” Um, sure they are.

The racy spot is creative, connects with the target, and works. The only problem is that the advertisement (which has since gone viral) does not consider the client’s brand nor was it ever approved. Worse, it seems, J.C. Penney doesn’t want any association with the ad since it was criticized for promoting high school students having sex (which is always more scrutinized than other endeavors).

Statement From J.C. Penney

"J.C. Penney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes. No one at J.C. Penney was aware of the ad or participated in the creation of it in any way.

The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at J.C. Penney's advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without J.C. Penney's knowledge or prior approval.

J.C. Penney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to remove the ad from online circulation and to apologize to our customers and our associates for misrepresenting our company in this manner.”


More Fallout From Saatchi & Saatchi

Saatchi & Saatchi immediately confirmed the statement and added that it had no knowledge that the advertisement was submitted, placing full blame on Epoch Films, a third-party production company. However, former Chief Operating Officer Tony Granger, who is now global creative head of WPP Group's Y&R, told AdAge a different story, saying that it was created for an award submission.

Epoch Films and J.C.. Penny are now referring all further inquires to Saatchi & Saatchi. Epoch Films has requested to withdraw the entry.

Final Thoughts

There are many folks in the advertising industry that covet awards (we have more programs than the entertainment industry) because advertising sometimes blurs the lines between commercial and entertainment. However, the real measure of effective advertising remains with the response.

Sure, the second measure, only after the first has been met, might be entering various award programs. But for me at least, the real beauty of the work isn’t just about making a magical commercial — it’s about matching the magic with the brand and having the client approve it. Otherwise, it’s petty easy to be blatantly creative.

In short, receiving recognition for the “honest” spot that never ran wasn’t worth it. And, one might wonder about J.C. Penney and Saatchi & Saatchi. They’ve both earned ample exposure, placing full blame on the smallest vendor to take the fall for releasing one of those nifty ideas that was unfortunately destined for the cutting room floor.

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Tuesday, June 24

Advertising Frankness: Cottonelle

On the heels of a $100 million “Be kind to your behind” advertising campaign for Cottonelle, Adweek asks whether personal products are becoming too frank for consumers. The new campaign, produced by JWT (New York), skips past fluffy clouds and cuts right to reality.

Mark Wodern, brand manager for Cottonelle, thinks so. He told Adweek that consumers are telling them loud and clear that they have more permission to speak to them directly and more overtly about their behinds, cleaning, and care for their bottoms.

Although some companies are still struggling with the idea, the trend extends beyond personal care. Consumers are growing tired of being sold on sappy, happy feel good moments alone. They want to know what the product or service really does (and I don’t necessarily mean they want it to be crude).

We see it here too. The number of clients who expect their copywriting to “sell” the product or service is diminishing as smarter clients are listening to their customers. Better writing communicates the product’s message.

Sure, writing can still be fun, clever and eye-catching. But not in the way some clients used to think. Consumers are developing an aversion to messages that try to hard — to be funny, to be clever, to seem bigger than they are, and to ‘sell’ the product.

They’re right, of course. Any writing that tries too hard is likely to indicate the opposite. More than one woman has complained about the silliness of the new Always campaign. More than one shopper has figured out that adding “!!!” at the end of the “SALE” does not make it more exciting. And most people have figured out that being “one of the leading companies” simply means it’s not in bankruptcy (maybe).

Of course, before public relations professionals snicker at their advertising peers, I might mention they are no better. Especially in the resort industry, laundry lists of facts and figures about floor space litter every release. Reality check needed? Maybe.

“Honey, where do you want to stay?”

“Um, I want to stay at whatever resort has the most square feet of casino floor.”

“Yeah, me too.”


Come on. It’s not like counting cup holders in a vehicle, which is significantly more important to consumers. Although, I suppose that might be better than calling Playstation 3 “Ready to rumble. It's hot.” It might be marginally more tolerable than duplicating a list of retailers to make the company bigger than it is. And it's absolutely better than asking people to “take the risk” with their antiperspirant.

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Monday, June 23

Advertising Flattens: Where's The Connection?

According to Advertising Age, the top 100 U.S. advertisers last year increased ad spending by 1.7 percent, while measured media spending rose a negligible 0.3 percent for major marketers. This is the most sluggish growth for advertising since the 2001 recession.

However, a sluggish economy is not only to blame. The entire industry is slowly shifting toward including and incorporating social media. While those who already are engaged in social media don’t always appreciate the notion, advertising seems to be slowly remembering its roots.

“There is no such thing as national advertising. All advertising is local and personal. It’s one man or woman reading one newspaper in the kitchen or watching TV in the den,” Morris Hite, who once oversaw Tracy-Locke-Dawson before it was purchased by BBDO/New York in 1982.

Sure, newspapers might have lost significant ground over the last few years, with Peter S. Appert, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, telling The New York Times “I think the probability is very high that there will be a number of examples of individual newspapers and newspaper companies that fall into a loss position. And I think it’s inevitable that there will be closures in this industry, and maybe bankruptcies.” But if we remain true to Hite’s point, we remain fixed on a single, simple lesson that sometimes seems forgotten.

The emphasis on advertising needs to be message over medium.

Again, the best ads connect to the consumer before demonstrating the cleverness of the advertising team. It’s the kind of thing that Seth Godin touches on now and again, except with a somewhat different conclusion on how we got here. Advertising wasn’t always about slapping innovative ads on top of average products. That’s a relatively new idea that deviated from its golden era.

If you look at the difference between golden era Volkswagen advertising and the most recent campaign, it might make more sense. The 1960s advertising carried the right message for the product. The new campaign attempts to give a nod to that era, but without a tangible connection to the consumer. Maybe that’s why Volkswagen sales are off this month, which goes a bit beyond the price of oil.

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Thursday, June 19

Confusing The Issues: The Consumerist


The Consumerist recently asks whether a CVS/pharmacy is discriminating against teens by only allowing two teens to enter the store at a time after the local high school lets out. The student who wrote in to The Consumerist called it ageism and has vowed to avoid the store from now on.

While most comments seem to defend the CVS/pharmacy policy as did many on SpinThicket (some even suggesting the letter writer ‘chill out’) based on the knowledge that stores around high schools have been employing similar tactics for years (even when I was in high school), most are wrong. Customers are allowed to express their dissatisfaction with a poor customer service policy and the best way to express that displeasure is to write a letter or shop elsewhere.

While I have a difficult time classifying this as ageism or legally forcing CVS/pharmacy to change its policy, I do think it’s beneficial to encourage teens to peacefully express their dissatisfaction with what amounts to poor customer service policy. And, in doing so, it might remind CVS/pharmacy (or any store with such policies) that shopping there is not privilege. On the contrary, it’s a privilege for the store to enjoy the after school rush crowd.

If the students boycotted the store for a few weeks, it seems to me that CVS/pharmacy would to have weigh the risks and rewards of a policy that doesn’t seem to be working for their customers, regardless of age. Not to mention, the security personnel who allegedly sneer at the students might consider that these students are probably the only reason that position exists.

Where this applies to communication is simple enough. Sometimes people tend to overextend their arguments (eg. ageism) when a simpler, less emotional statement might just be enough. And that is where the letter writer could have benefited. Conversely though, those who rose to defend CVS/pharmacy might consider reacting less and looking to the root of the problem. It’s a customer service issue.

You know, it really doesn’t make sense to teach students that they must accept disagreeable customer service simply because they happen to attend high school. On the contrary, learning how to communicate as a consumer early on will help them far into the future. All companies have to be reminded from time to time to time that companies and customers have choices.

Do you want them as a customer? Do they want you as a vendor?

For CVS/pharmacy, which invests millions in CVS Caremark All Kids Can to be kid and family friendly, I suspect they might be able to come up with a better solution that meets their needs of young customers. Likewise, I hope the student who wrote the letter learns that we don't need to scream discrimination when poor customer service is enough.

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Wednesday, June 18

Breaking Up With Oil: GM

There’s some buzz in the advertising business as GM toys with the idea of running a spot to “break up” with oil as a fuel source. But as the saying goes, breaking up is hard to do.

"It's one spot, and it's not in its final creative treatment yet," GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato told Automotive News today. "We don't know if we're going to run it."

Two other commercials, created by McCann Erickson, airing on Planet Green are less blunt but do place an emphasis on GM’s continued consideration of alternative fuels. While there has always been considerable speculation about the effectiveness of green advertising, there is one message that resonates with consumers — gas prices have topped $4 per gallon.

Hummer could even be the heaviest causality of GM’s apparent plan to introduce more vehicles that rely on alternative fuels, including electric. As for the reservations in airing the advertisement? While some people speculate that oil companies might have some hold over GM, the more obvious answer is that GM doesn’t need another critic. It has plenty.

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Tuesday, June 17

Making Lazy: Passive Customer Service


When it comes to communication, the most impacting miscommunication almost never appears on the news, in print, or anywhere near the marketing department. It happens on the front line, and the people impacted are customers, one at a time.

The two most common causes of miscommunication for larger companies is trending to be passive communication (eg. expecting customers to stay up to date on the company Web site) and scripted employees (eg. requiring representatives to work from scripts even in non-script circumstances).

There are plenty of examples that we’ve helped several companies resolve recently, but I thought it might be fun to share some personal examples to illustrate the point.

Passive Communication.

Cox Communications Inc. recently implemented a new e-mail filtering program to block a specific Internet port. The only mention of the service change is on their Web site.

The reasoning behind the implementation was a good idea, but they did not notify their customers of the change in service beyond posting to their Web site. In fact, we may have never known there was potential problem had it not been for a small number of clients and contacts using Cox as their primary e-mail provider. For some reason, our Cox service provider was disallowing our POP e-mails to Cox customer clients.

Their customer service representatives are now investing time to research the problem and provide a solution. To their customer service department’s credit (once the script questions were ruled out), they immediately upgraded their level service, even calling back with updates rather than leaving us on hold.

While the person-to-person customer service was great, I’m still wondering if better front-end communication might have prevented any service interruption.

Scripted Employees.

It works in reverse too. Not all companies are so fortunate to have proactive employees willing to research the impact to their customers. Some customer service representatives seem too lazy to move off script. This recently occurred when one of our last payments to Volkswagen Credit disappeared in the mail.

We were notified of the missing payment, first by receiving our next payment coupon, which required a double payment, and then by an automated call from the company on the same day the double payment went out. (Again, these are passive communication solution as opposed to a letter or live person phone call). Regardless, my wife called immediately about her car.

Despite learning the payment was likely lost in the mail, the first customer service representative insisted she answer personal questions, without explanation, including about her employment status. Not only did it seemed overly intrusive for a lost payment call, the representative informed her that the missing payment would be reported because the company had allegedly made numerous calls to notify us. Knowing that was not true, she then asked to speak to a supervisor.

“No, you may not speak to anyone else. I’m handling your account.”

For real? As unbelievable as it sounds, yes. She took his name and number and then promptly ended the call. She called back to speak to someone new. The difference was like night and day.

“I see you’ve never missed a payment. I’ll clear this up right now.”

As for those calls? They never happened. The first representative made it up. As for the general ill-tempered representative? The second representative was left having to apologize. As for the personal questions? Volkswagen Credit has recently created a program to save people who are struggling financially from defaulting on their payments. It’s a great idea, but it didn’t apply to our circumstance nor did the first representative mention “why” he needed to ask.

Mixed Messages.

Considering how many companies lean toward intrusive marketing to push products and services (I even had a mortgage company come to my door yesterday), it’s equally amazing how many become passive once you become a customer (I hope you know that periodic calls to your credit card and insurance company almost always result in lower rates).

As for the examples above, proactive communication seems like it could have been the best answer to keep everyone happy. And, once we, as customers, were forced to take proactive steps, the outcome was tied to how empowered the representatives were to make decisions.

Sure, some executives think scripting employees helps representatives stay on the same page. In reality, scripting employees only leads to one-way communication, which we already know is no communication at all.

The solution is somewhere in the middle. Proactive post-purchase communication and strong internal communication can help develop a consistent, and not overly scripted, level of service that empowers employees and reinforces to the customer that they have the right company.

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Monday, June 16

Taking Responsibility: Public Relations Spam 2


I have developed a great relationship with Kevin Goodman over the last year, mostly because he tends to ask the right questions. Not many people do that. And for Goodman, the issue of public relations spam is no exception.

Goodman suggests that if public relations spam exists, then why would journalists accept major newswire services, which basically “blast” releases all over the place? And, given this, why wouldn’t a public relations firm simply buy their databases and build their own lists?

Easy. PR Newswire doesn’t really blast anything. It’s a passive service, where journalists can go for story leads and get a quick snapshot of insights into specific industries. Contrary, the single release, especially if it is off target, doesn’t provide a service.

The difference between the two can be likened to visiting a company Web site or being pelted by junk e-mails every day.

So while these services create the illusion that there are thousands of journalists looking for releases, the reality is that none of them are looking for releases at all. They are looking for stories — preferably good ones that haven’t appeared everywhere else.

While a few releases do result in good stories, the vast majority only contain information that a company or public relations professional considers news and not necessarily what a journalist or various publics might consider news. Again, the difference is as vast as junk mail. The companies who send it never consider their own mailers junk; they consider it a valuable service in delivering offers that consumers would have to be stupid to refuse.

Maybe there is too much “I” think in public relations and not enough “publics” think, which is what journalists tend to have.

In other words, some (not all) public relations professionals focus so much on column inches and inclusion counts that they forget the needs of their various publics. Once one understands which publics might be interested in any particular news story (assuming it is news), then finding the right publications (and the right journalists working for those publications) becomes much more effective, especially if you can narrow it down to a handful.

Revisiting Chris Anderson at Wired and others who ban releases from select companies and public relations firms.

I’ve said this before, but in reality, Anderson didn’t set a precedent. Editors and journalists have been ignoring and banning releases for years. His post just happened to be noticed because he published the e-mails of those firms he considered spam. I would not have done that, but I don’t fault him for his decision.

Goodman goes a step further in questioning if Anderson’s post that outed alleged public relations spammers last October could be libelous.

Addressing the question in depth would require another post, but a truncated view is simply not in the least. Factual accuracy is the ultimate defense against libel. And, the First Amendment protects any opinions. It’s more than fair for Anderson to critique releases.

And sure while anyone who has served as an editor knows they will receive a certain amount of spam, they are under obligation to gleefully accept it, offer pointers, or run it. It’s not their job.

I think it’s great that some editors do take the time to do it, and those who make such investments are providing gifts, not necessarily setting a standard.

In sum, the real shift in public relations begins with responsibility and not necessarily responsibility for the industry. Just because your client wants you to send non-news, doesn’t mean you have to. Just because someone says they have a list doesn’t mean it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. Just because you have a list, doesn’t mean you have to send everything to everyone. And just because someone says something about an industry, doesn't mean you have to own it.

There are plenty of bad ads out there. Most ad agencies aren't bothered by them beyond their front door.

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Friday, June 13

Nothing But Net: TheWB.com


A little more than two years ago, Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) announced it would make hundreds of movies and television shows available for purchase over the Internet. They’ve come a long way since then.

Today, WBTVG announced digital distribution deals with Dailymotion, Joost, Sling Media, TiVo and Veoh. It already has a channel on AOL and a surprisingly dynamic Facebook application, with a trailer that ends “the next great network will not be televised.”

“The launch of TheWB.com [beta] represents a natural progression of the Warner Bros. Television Group’s digital strategy and complements our core business, which is based upon episodic storytelling, first-class distribution and providing value to partners through advertising in a premium environment,” said Bruce Rosenblum, president of WBTVG.

The move also solidifies the continued shift toward total broadcast-Internet convergence, especially since Warner Bros. will be adding original short form content. Currently, the WB beta site is offering full episodes of All Of Us, Blue Water High, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dangerous, Friends, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Smallville, The OC, and Veronica Mars.

What will be especially interesting is if the new site might even provide viewers another opportunity to resurrect some shows that did not perform well according to Nielsen ratings. Several had developed strong Internet fan bases, including Veronica Mars, Moonlight, and Supernatural.

Moonlight fans found out their show was cancelled in May while Veronica Mars fans are still working hard to see their favorite detective move from the small screen to the big screen. (Supernatural has at least one more season left on The CW; we hope many more.) According to fans, all of these shows have a following that is not well represented by Nielsen.

For WBTVG, the move toward an all-digital network might also provide marketers and advertisers with more options than investing exclusively in their own original content to reach an audience that is already outpacing traditional media. The primary advantage for WBTVG over other networks seems to be that they are unencumbered by any attachments to traditional media. For them, it’s simply full steam ahead.

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Thursday, June 12

Burning Music: The Irony Of Anti-Violence Violence

"We are considering having something similar to a rally where parents and children can bring CDs and video games that they consider are destructive to the mind set of our youth and have a burning, just like they had a gun buyback last year.” — Pastor Richard Patrick

Blogcampaigning summed up their take on a potential anti-music/anti-game rally as something that they thought only happens on the Simpsons, which is pretty amusing since the Simpsons would likely land in the fire. Otherwise, it happens all the time.

What makes this Newport story interesting is the amount of attention it has received. Slashdot even pointed to some studies that suggest what is on the burn list might not be to blame.

One study concluded that “there were actually higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game [World of Warcraft] as opposed to experiencing anger, but this very much depended on personality type.”

The latter is true. You never know what people are going to do when exposed to any material. For example, four years ago, a 19-year-old poured grease on her boyfriend’s face during an argument about a Bible verse. The Bible, of course, had nothing to do with the decision.

So while the pastor might be right in that some youth emulate the material they are exposed to, encouraging “burnings” seems to be a same path alternative. After all, it’s one thing to teach youth and parents how to make positive life choices, but it’s another to encourage the destruction of everything disagreeable.

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Wednesday, June 11

Defining Relationships: Three Degrees Of Clients


Seth Godin once pointed to Stew Leonard’s unwritten rule 3, which states “if the customer is wrong, then they’re not your customer any more.” In other words, if it's not worth making the customer right, fire them. And, he has a good point.

While we have some pretty simple guidelines, it’s not always black and white. We listen carefully to the client and then deliver some degree of what they need or what they want. Usually, we know which degree of customer they want to be long before they become our customer.

The Three Degrees Of Clients

• We work with the client to deliver what internal and external research suggests they need in the marketplace.

• We work with the client to deliver what they want, sometimes suggesting what they might need in the marketplace.

• We deliver exactly what the client wants, until they don’t like it and as long as they don’t blame us for the results.

Of course, we usually don’t have to ask which degree of service they prefer. The answer tends to come up in other ways.

“We want a brochure like this.”

“We need two fax numbers on our business card.”

“We showed a bunch of people and they had opinions.”

If there is any uncertainty, we might ask them why they need a brochure, why they need two fax numbers, or who were the people they asked. For some, light bulbs go on. Others, the second degree, has explanations.

“Our competitor has a brochure like this.”

“It would make it more convenient for me.”

“I really trust their opinions and we always listen to them.”

Sometimes I’ll ask if they think it’s smart to be the same as the competitor (thereby surrendering any competitive advantage), whether they’ve considered the inconvenience to the customer (never knowing which number to fax to), or if any of the collected opinions come from someone in marketing, with tangible market research, or a prospect (not an existing customer) at the very least. For some, light bulbs go on. Others, the third degree, has explanations.

“Yes, because they seem successful.”

“Yes, they can always call me to find out.”

“I’m not going to tell you, but I really think they are right.”

When we hear these answers, the next question we ask is to ourselves. Can we afford to give them what they want or are their wants better served elsewhere so we can focus on those clients who have entrusted us to find out what they need? I usually make the decision based on whether the client will be happy with what they want or if they require us to be happy with what they want. The latter cannot be our client.

After all, as Alexander Kjerulf said last year — “some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better off without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service.”

I tend to agree. Our customers are always right. Or, they aren’t our customers.

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Tuesday, June 10

Stopping The PR Spam: Jason Falls

”In my opinion, the way the public relations industry responds to the problem of PR spam over the course of the next six to 12 months could make or break our profession for the next decade. Why are our professional organizations not prioritizing this?” — Jason Falls

I love this punchy prediction tucked inside the post on Social Media Explorer because it challenges an industry that never considers their own work spam. It’s always those other guys and gals who are bringing the industry down.

Sure, not everyone in public relations is a spammer, but it often seems that more of them play the numbers game than anyone will ever admit. At minimum, more play the number than those who will spend several hours searching for news inside their clients’ companies.

Falls says Jeremy Pepper is right. The industry needs education, but it’s not just up to professors to teach it. (Considering how many public relations professionals studied this profession in school, I tend to agree. Not to mention, for every instructor who advises against spamming, there is one or more who liken pitch calls and press releases to the return on a slot machine.)

Falls says a lot of it has to do with developing relationships over lists. In truth, he is part right. But what the novice public relations professional never seems to be taught is how to develop those relationships in the first place. So rather than recap his well-thought post in entirety, I’ll cut to the chase.

It’s easy to develop relationships. While I am oversimplifying, there are three ways to establish connections with bloggers and journalists.

1. Go to work for a company, agency, or organization that the bloggers and journalists are already interested in. It seems tongue in cheek, but it’s true. If you work for Apple or Microsoft or the district attorney’s office, they’ll contact you fifteen minutes after you introduce yourself as the new go-to person.

2. Become engaged in events, activities, networks, and organizations that bloggers and journalists care about, er, assuming you have a common interest. Much like business, many relationships develop outside the bubble.

3. Skip the blast emailing people about the company’s next balloon popping and find some real news. Once you find it, invest some time into writing a great release and sending it to only those bloggers and journalists who might be interested. When the blogger or journalist follows up, you then have an opportunity to deepen the relationship based on your ability to help them.

The third point is where people get mixed up because many of them struggle with determining what is news and what is not. Personally, I think it takes some time to develop an appreciation for what might make the news. I tossed up ten items that help determine news last year.

But sometimes the answer is even simpler. Start by asking yourself if you would want to write about the topic you are sending to the blogger or journalist. Based on the effort put into some releases, I would guess that many public relations professionals would say no. So if that is your answer, there you go!

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Monday, June 9

Advertising Trends: Devaluing Taglines

The average lifespan of a tagline is about five years. And while there are some short and long exceptions, five years seems to be about how long it takes for marketers and advertisers to call for change, even when they don’t need to.

Why?

That’s the question Citibank seems to be asking as it has decided to revive its "Citi never sleeps" tagline. According to AdWeek, Lisa Caputo, CMO for Citi, said that testing with consumers "confirmed its strong recall and favorability. And one of the great benefits is we already own it; it's trademarked." (Personally, I like the Live Richly series better.)

The article also speculates that the trend to return to old taglines could be tied to any number of reasons: harkening back to better days, capitalizing on boomer nostalgia, or admitting that creativity is diminishing.

While there is some truth to all three points presented by AdWeek’s Gregory Solman, it seems to me that many companies are simply realizing that they had a great tagline and were too quick to give it up with the next big advertising campaign.

Sure, change can be good, but it really depends on how the tagline is employed and whether or not it ever made a powerful connection to the brand like “Diamonds are forever” “Just do it” and “Good to the last drop” have done.

There are others. “Where’s the beef?” and “Look Mom! No cavities!” also come to mind. But unlike those earlier mentioned, these taglines did need change because they were much more campaign-centric despite the fact that neither Wendy’s nor Crest has ever succeeded in introducing something stronger.

It’s not for lack of trying. In 2004, Procter & Gamble Co. invested $100 million to rebrand Crest, which included a “healthy, beautiful smiles for life” positioning statement. But frankly, the tagline was just too generic to connect.

So when does a tagline need to change?

It depends on the tagline.

At the end of a campaign. Sometimes it might be painful, but Wendy’s and Crest both had campaign-reliant taglines that had to end with the campaigns.

At the end of an era. "Does she ... or doesn't she?” is anther classic tagline, but it’s not timeless. It wouldn’t really resonate today unless it was a nostalgic campaign but only because it was brilliantly attached to the era.

A shift in direction. This was the case for Wal-Mart when it shifted from “Always low prices. Always.” to “Save money. Live better.” While the reasoning was sound because it represented a shift in the company, the new tagline still doesn’t stick. Miller Lite is attempting to do the shift as well.

Because it sucks. Mobile once sported the tagline “We want you to live." Ho hum. Enough said.

Never. When it works, assuming it is not tied to a campaign or era, then it doesn’t need to change for the sake of change. For example, American Express still scores higher with “Don’t Leave Home Without It” than the more generic “Do more.” or “My life. My card.” or “Are You A Cardmember?”

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Friday, June 6

Working For Funny: Derrie-Air Airlines

Philadelphia Media Holdings, which owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, and its advertising agency, Gyro, had a clever idea. They decided to create a campaign for the fictional Derrie-Air airlines with the idea being to test the results of advertising in their print and online products, and “to stimulate discussion on a timely environmental topic of interest to all citizens.”

Philadelphia Media Holdings spokesman Jay Devine added that the goal was to "demonstrate the power of our brands in generating awareness and generating traffic for our advertisers, and put a smile on people's faces."

The campaign, which touts that air travelers will pay by the pound on the new luxury airline, is cute enough to make someone smile. But does it really accomplish any other goal?

Smiles aside, the campaign employs a value proposition that most companies cannot match (for thin people with light carry-ons anyway). And in reality, most offers are not that interesting. Of course it’s easier to gin up interest on fictional claims. Just ask Steorn. So in terms of generating awareness, any numbers will be nothing more than smoke, fire, and flash.

The same might be said about stimulating discussion on a timely environmental topic. Not many, if anyone, is talking or blogging about the environment because of this campaign. They’re simply talking about the campaign, and not even the cost of the paper needed to print it.

So as much as I enjoy something funny now and again, this campaign needs some sales before it can be called a success. For now, it's only real claim to fame seems to be that is made potential customers work harder for a laugh that any real ad could have delivered for better results. Hmmm ... now that's not so funny.

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Thursday, June 5

Confusing Communication: 2.0 Blues


I’ve never been a big fan of attaching 2.0 to everything. Anymore, it seems cliché and tends to cause more confusion than it’s worth. But it is what it is.

Among the latest to get attention in 2.0 game is the Enterprise 2.0, which the Enterprise 2.0 Conference defines as “the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email. It provides business managers with access to the right information at the right time through a web of inter-connected applications, services and devices … and makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility.”

It seemed worthwhile to mention today in light of a study released by AIIM (hat tip: Chapel), which is a non-profit organization focused on helping users to understand the challenges associated with managing documents, content, records, and business processes. AIIM surveyed 441 end users and found that most recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but few had a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 means.

Specifically, 44 percent said Enterprise 2.0 is imperative or significant to corporate goals and objectives, but 74 percent said they only have a vague familiarity or no clear understanding of it. It's interesting to me because it’s almost the same answer from the polar opposite end of the spectrum of the Welch’s ad opinions.

Maybe we really need simpler definitions so people making decisions can understand what they think is critical to the success of their business. Really, all Enterprise 2.0 seems to be is utilizing social media tools for better cross-departmental internal communication. Now that seems pretty smart once you get past the gibberish that does the opposite of what Enterprise 2.0 is supposed to do.

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Wednesday, June 4

Advertising Surprise: Welch's Grape Juice

In Feb., the Welch's Grape Juice ad campaign featuring a Peel 'n Taste sample inside PEOPLE magazine prompted Folio to wonder about sensory overload, gave one chemist pause, and sparked several to call the concept a “poorly executed idea.” In other words, most thought the First Flavor strip was worth a chuckle and nothing more.

A new study conducted by independent researcher GfK Starch Communications now suggests that if anyone should be laughing, it might be Welch's and First Flavor.

• The ad received as much recognition as an 8-page insert.
• The ad received the top branding score in that edition.
• The ad was the second most noticed, behind the inside front cover and gatefold.
• 59 percent of those who tried the flavor strip were more likely to buy the product, compared to 25 percent who did not try the sample.
• 88 percent of those who tried the strip, which was protected by foil, liked the taste.

"Readers saw our ad, some even tasted the flavor strip of our Welch's 100% grape juice and, most importantly, were more likely to purchase our delicious product as a result," said Christopher Heye, vice president of marketing at Welch's.

This just goes to show that my longtime friend and agency client, Jeff Rogers, vice president of Evolution, was spot on during a recent strategy session. After the new account asked why so many companies reject marketing recommendations, he had one simple answer.

“Too many marketing decisions are based on reasons that begin, ‘I like...'” he said.

It’s also the reason I resigned an account this week for the first time in two years. After noting that every marketing decision was ultimately based upon what the client “liked” or, worse, what was liked by a random passersby, it was time to wish him the best.

Much like those who first commented on the Welch’s ad, it’s always easy to provide a guess. But for the rest of us, the better decision-making process relies on test and measure. After all, who cares if you like it if the results demonstrate success?

In fact, I suspect that until more companies focus on outcomes as opposed to what they like, their advertising and marketing will continue to be one big guessing game with random hits and misses that reinforce invalid conclusions.

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Tuesday, June 3

Talking Turkey: Andrew Cohen VS. Public Relations


The Buzz Bin is abuzz, providing a snapshot of the "kertuffle" over the CBS analyst Andrew Cohen’s remarks about the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which was prompted by former presidential press secretary Scott McClellan's new book.

Excerpt from McClellan’s book:

So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

Except from PRSA about the book:

In the wake of the recently published book by former presidential press secretary Scott McClellan, PRSA is calling for government reform and challenging the 2008 presidential candidates to adopt a communications policy engaging principles like those in the PRSA Member Code of Ethics.

Excerpt from Cohen about public relations:

Show me a PR person who is "accurate" and "truthful," and I'll show you a PR person who is unemployed.

The reason companies or governments hire oodles of PR people is because PR people are trained to be slickly untruthful or half-truthful. Misinformation and disinformation are the coin of the realm, and it has nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican.

Excerpt from Robert French, which mirrors much of the industry reaction:

You know, I see this latest example of PR bashing (from a news network that feeds off of media relations) to be just another in a long line of foolish, ignorant (and a bit arrogant) people. Even funnier, regarding this happening on CBS - of all places, it was their network that recently wanted to farm out some of their coverage to CNN and not do it themselves.

Except from PRSA’s rebuttal:

Regarding your commentary on today’s CBS Sunday Morning, the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society finds it imperative to affirm the professionalism of public relations practitioners and to take exception with what we regard as a misguided opinion.

Except from Cohen’s rebuttal after the flack:

I am now the target of a public-relations effort to ridicule my effort, my points, my character and integrity. I expected nothing less. I mean, when you make fun of people whose job it is to burnish public images you’ve got to expect they are going to, well, burnish their own public images at the expense of your own. I am not taking it personally.

My take, part one:

Every year, I share two points to public relations professionals that might apply.

1. As a public relations professional, your reputation stays with you, not the company, organization, or government entity that asks you to lie. So, basically, don’t do it.

2. As a public relations professional, you cannot control what other people say; only how you react to what they say.

My take, part two:

I think we just witnessed a mainstream media version of a blog drama among eagles. How very quaint.

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Monday, June 2

Making Entertainment: Macy’s, Inc.


Macy’s continues to garner attention for the future launch of a 10-episode documentary style series that will follow the lives of five young people who want to break into the music business. The series will premiere this fall and promotes the American Rag brand.

The Web series is part of a growing trend of marketing initiatives that blur the lines between advertising and entertainment.

It is being developed by MEC Entertainment, which is owned by WWP Group. The show is being cast with amateurs, contestants selected from 12 college campuses around the country.

The general concept is to dress the cast in American Rag clothing and feature some segments with the cast shopping for the clothing across the country. YouTube viewers will be able to purchase the clothing from the Macy’s site.

While Macy’s is interested in the viral potential of the series, RepNation, which provides a consumer powered media network, says it’s an acknowledgement that it’s more difficult to reach college students through traditional channels. What makes this an important footnote is that marketers and advertisers coming to the conclusion that what once was an online opportunity is fast becoming necessity.

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